"Just Following The Buffalo": Origins Of A Montana Métis Community


Abstract quoted from Foster, Page 198:

"From 1879 to 1883 the Métis of the Spring Creek drainage successfully established a Métis community, but the decimation of the buffalo herds and gradual control of the area by incoming non-Métis settlers precluded Métis economic, social, and political dominance in their new community. Socially, in the Euro-American mind, they were linked increasingly to their Indian relatives. While the Métis, when speaking English, respectfully referred to themselves as “half-breeds,” their Euro-American neighbours came to use the word “breed” to mean something more akin to a degenerate Indian – one who is Indian but inferior to “pure bloods.” In Montana, references to the Métis, as those in the 1880 census, emphasized their Indian connections more often than their Euro-American ones, ignoring their distinctive values and lifestyle. Many Euro-Americans confused the Métis as their Cree relatives, with whom they often camped and hunted. Their ascribed legal and social identities in conflict, the Métis faced the greatest challenge of their long history, the end of the fur trade. While the Spring Creek band welcomed and accommodated Euro-American newcomers to the most prosperous Métis community in Montana, their life in the Judith Basin had changed forever. By 1884 the Spring Creek Métis had not only lost economic control of their community, but also witnessed incoming Euro-American settlers reverse their numerical, and consequently, their political advantage. Above all, they watched in dismay as their economic base abruptly disappeared from the Plains. That the Spring Creek Métis met the new challenges of the next century was apparent in 1979 when the Métis of Lewistown held a Centennial Celebration. The celebration honored the mixed-decent people of Montana, the Dakotas, and Canada with cultural demonstrations and a locally published history documenting their unique culture and common past. Hundreds of Métis, Indian, and non-Indian people attended events ranging from panel discussions to Métis dances, fiddling, and a powwow. Celebrations continue in Lewistown to the present in recognition of both the Métis past and their hopes for the future." (198).

Publication Information

Foster, Harroun Martha. "Just Following The Buffalo: Origins of a Montana Métis Community." Great Plains Quarterly 26 (3): 2006

Foster, Martha Harroun
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